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WRD Fisheries Section Hatcheries

Buford Trout Hatchery

Open daily

  • 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Hatchery Visiting Hours)
  • 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. (Pond and Nature Trail Hours)

The Buford Trout Hatchery is located in Forsyth County on the banks of the Chattahoochee River just downstream of  Lake Lanier and Buford Dam.

Directions (Address: 3204 Trout Place Rd., Cumming GA 30041)

  • From Interstate 85/985: Travel west on GA Highway 20.  After you cross the Chattahoochee River you will turn right onto River Club Dr. (you will be entering a subdivision - look for the DNR hatchery sign). Travel approximately 1/2 mile on River Club Dr., turn right onto Trout Place Road (at the second hatchery sign). The hatchery is through the gate at the end of the road.
  • From GA 400: Travel east on GA Highway 20 for approximately  4 1/2 miles, turn left onto River Club Dr. (into the subdivision) and follow the directions above.

Hatchery Telephone: 770-781-6888

Loading trout from raceways into the stocking truck

General Hatchery Information

Buford Trout Hatchery is open daily from:

  • 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Hatchery Visiting Hours)
  • 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. (Pond and Nature Trail Hours)

Visitors are welcome and can...

  1. view thousands of trout in the hatchery rearing area,
  2. walk along the Hatchery Nature/Bird Trail,
  3. fish in the Family Fishing Pond, or 
  4. take the weekly hatchery tour at 1:00 PM each Saturday.

The Hatchery Rearing Area

  • Visitors can view up to 1 million trout that are being reared for stocking into Georgia's public waters. The list of trout-stocked waters can be viewed at www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout.
  • The hatchery rears brown trout (Salmo trutta) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) for the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division's stockable and fingerling trout programs.  The trout range in size from just a few inches long to the "Show and Tell" fish, which weigh more than 10 pounds. 
  • The hatchery produces trout for Georgia's traditional stocking season, the Delayed Harvest and "Big Fish" programs, as well as a number of fingerling stockings.
  • Rainbow trout economic impact analysis (external U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site)

The Hatchery Nature/Bird Trail

  • Visitors can walk along the Hatchery's Nature/Bird Trail. The trail
    offers visitors the opportunity to see a number of bird species.  The
    hatchery is located below Lake Lanier and adjacent to the Chattahoochee River.  The hatchery's proximity to the river draws large numbers of transient and breeding song birds. 
  • The trail terminates in a boardwalk and viewing platform that overlooks a beaver swamp.  Waterfowl and occasional upland birds can be viewed from the platform.

The Family Pond

  • The Family Pond offers catch and release fishing for small bluegill and catfish. Visitors are asked to register before fishing and may record the number and species of fish they catch.
  • Pond conditions and fishing success will vary due to weather and normal hatchery operations that utilize the pond for treatment of hatchery effluent. Aquatic vegetation is often present and helps control nutrients in the pond.
  • Anglers should bring their own fishing equipment if possible. The hatchery has a limited number of loaner fishing poles.
  • Children (under age 16) may fish for free, but adults and teens (age 16 and older) must have a valid Georgia Fishing License. Anglers must bring their own bait.
  • Bream can be caught on #8 hooks, very small bobbers, and 6-lb. test line. The best baits for bream are worms (red wigglers), small dough balls made from white bread, and crickets.
  • Catfish can be caught on larger #6 hooks, larger bobbers, and 6- or 8-lb. test line. The best baits for catfish are night crawlers, commercially available stink baits, or small pieces of hotdogs.
  • Picnic tables at the Family Pond are available for anglers or hikers. 

Hatchery Tours

  • A guided hatchery tour is offered for the public at 1:00 p.m. each Saturday. 
  • Visitors will learn about the trout reared at the hatchery and will be able to feed  fish.
  • Tours last from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Self-guided tours are available for some school/educational, church, scout, and civic groups. For details, call 770-781-6888.

Other family activities in the area

Lake Lanier Turnover Facts

Buford Trout Hatchery gets the water used to grow trout from the tailwater area of the Chattahoochee River immediately below Lake Lanier. Natural processes occurring in the lake throughout the year can have an effect on the water quality downstream of the dam. This in turn can affect hatchery operations.

Water intake for hatchery on Chattahoochee River

Below is a description of the annual water quality changes that occur in Lake Lanier (and many other Southeastern reservoirs). WRD biologists Bill Couch (Buford Trout Hatchery Manager) and Reggie Weaver (Lake Lanier fisheries management biologist) developed this information.   

"Lake turnover" is a term that is often used incorrectly to describe one period of the annual cycle of lake stratification (layering), which affects the water quality of Southeastern reservoirs.  Throughout the year at Georgia's latitudes and elevations, reservoirs go through a fairly predictable annual cycle.  I will address the annual cycle of Lake Lanier and its impact on water quality downstream in the Chattahoochee River.  In general this pattern is similar through the Carolinas, Tennessee and most other reservoirs that do not freeze, or are not in tropical climates.  Sunlight, air and water temperatures and the density of water at different temperatures drive this annual cycle.

During the cold winter months Lake Lanier's water is generally the same temperature from the top to the bottom.  The lake's water is cold (around 45-50 degrees F) and clear.  Water on the top and bottom of the reservoir has similar densities. Wind action on the surface water rolls the lake and surface water mixes with the bottom water.   The exposure that all of the lake water has to the surface allows the lake to have plenty of oxygen from top to bottom.  In winter, water temperature and oxygen concentration do not limit fish movement in the lake.  Lake water, which is released from the bottom of the lake into the Chattahoochee River below the dam, is cold, oxygenated and clear. 

New State Record Brown Trout (20 lb, 14 oz), caught on Chattahoochee River (7-27-14) near Hatchery

During spring and early summer the lake begins to gain heat and stratify into three somewhat distinct layers:  the surface layer called the epilimnion, a bottom layer called the hypolimnion, and a layer between the two called the metalimnion or, as anglers know it, the thermocline, which is how I will refer to it as well. 

During the warm months, high air temperatures and more sunlight heat the lake surface faster than the lake can mix.  The warm water, which is less dense, floats to the surface and becomes the epilimnion.  This warm layer is fairly uniform in temperature and varies from 15 to 30 feet thick throughout the summer. It is full of oxygen from wind action and from oxygen production by microscopic algae, called phytoplankton, via photosynthesis.

The hypolimnion, the cold (45-55 degrees F) bottom layer, becomes isolated and no longer mixes with the warm, oxygenated epilimnion.  Oxygen is not produced in the hypolimnion, because this cold, deep layer does not receive sunlight and is devoid of phytoplankton production.  Early in the lake stratification process the hypolimnion still contains some oxygen and fish movement is not restricted, but dissolved oxygen levels decline through summer as biological and chemical processes consume oxygen.  That is, oxygen is used up in the decomposition of organic matter (nutrients).  The amount of nutrients entering the lake from its watershed is called nutrient loading.  Water released into the Chattahoochee River from the dam comes from this deep-water zone.  Native river species could not adjust to the changed conditions created by Buford Dam, but the cold river water, once re-oxygenated by running over shoals, was a great new habitat for trout.

Between the epilimnion and hypolimnion layers is a layer of rapid temperature change (at least 2 degrees F per yard), called the thermocline.   The thermocline, usually 20 to 30 feet thick, does not mix with the surface layer and has little sunlight reaching it.   Therefore, oxygen production in the thermocline begins to decline after the lake stratifies.

By summer's end, the lake is strongly stratified.  The epilimnion is warm; it receives sunlight and has plenty of oxygen.  Water temperature and oxygen concentrations within the thermocline are both lower, but still often provide acceptable habitat for cool water fish species like stripers and walleye. 

In the hypolimnion (deeper than 60 feet), the water is stagnant, cold, and low in oxygen (less than 3 parts per million or ppm).  Fish cannot survive in this deepest layer when dissolved oxygen drops much below 3 ppm.  As the oxygen concentrations get low, some metals and sulfides in the lake sediments become soluble.  These dissolve in the water and are passed downstream as water leaves Lake Lanier and enters the river.  This is first noticeable in late September or early October, when these metals and sulfides give the river water its distinctive fall colors and a rotten egg smell.  Although these are stressors for the river fish, low oxygen concentrations and high metal and sulfide concentrations are very rarely associated with fish mortality in the river.  The river water becomes re-aerated quickly as it flows downstream, and fish in the river avoid water with low dissolved oxygen by finding seeps, springs or feeder streams that have higher dissolved oxygen and lower metal and sulfide concentrations.  However, trout fishing in the river near the dam suffers in the fall, because of these water quality conditions.

Prior to the 1980s, oxygen concentrations (greater than 5 ppm) and temperatures in the thermocline of Lake Lanier, a young reservoir at that time, were adequate to allow trout to survive.  Since then, organic matter entering the lake has increased, and the oxygen needs of trout can no longer be met.  There just isn't enough oxygen to keep trout alive through this critical summer period.  Today striped bass still find enough oxygen and adequate cool water habitat in the lake's thermocline to survive the summer; however, they can be stressed by low oxygen conditions (2-4 ppm). 

In the fall, as air temperatures drop, the lake begins to lose heat, and the process of de-stratification begins.  The warm water of the epilimnion cools and becomes deeper and denser.  It still has lots of oxygen.  As the epilimnions density approaches the density of the hypolimnion, mixing of the layers can take place.  When this happens the stratification is broken and the bottom water mixes with the surface water, and the lake is no longer stratified.  This event is called "Lake Turnover, and generally occurs around Christmas each year.  After the mixing there are no layers, and the entire lake will have high oxygen concentrations.  Within a few days after lake turnover, the dissolved metals become insoluble and settle to the bottom.  This leaves the lake water clear from the top to bottom, and the river water clears as well.  Metals that have settled on the river bottom are eventually washed downstream by the daily generations.

With the warming of spring, the stratification process will repeat itself, and the plankton, fish, and other aquatic wildlife will react to these changes in their habitat.

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